6 May 2005

Fiji's former opposition leader says new reconciliation bill is a recipe for disaster

7:08 am on 6 May 2005

The former Fiji opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says the Qarase government's proposed Reconciliation and Unity Commission is a recipe for disaster.

Mr Beddoes says this is because it gives any would be political activist who wants to engage in a coup or political sabotage licence to do so in the knowledge that legislation exists to provide a quick exit provided one says "sorry".

Mr Beddoes says he finds it extraordinary that the prime minister would announce the introduction of this bill without providing any details to parliament or political leaders.

He has questioned who is going to distinguish between politically motivated crime for which there is an amnesty provision in the legislation, and criminal intent.

Mr Beddoes says apart from the implications of the Bill on the integrity and independence of the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies, there are constitutional implications.

He says the timing of the Reconciliation and Unity Commission just 15 months before the next general election suggests it is part of the SDL's campaign strategy of keeping in tow its coalition partner, the pro-coup Conservative Alliance.

The current opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says the Reconciliation and Unity Commission is designed to get the prime minister off the hook and save those in his government who have been jailed or are facing charges.